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Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,121 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Body art meets popular science in this elegant, mind-blowing collection, written by renowned science writer Carl Zimmer. This fascinating book showcases hundreds of eye-catching tattoos that pay tribute to various scientific disciplines, from evolutionary biology and neuroscience to mathematics and astrophysics, and reveals the stories of the individuals who chose to inscr ...more
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Sterling (first published October 4th 2011)
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,121 ratings  ·  140 reviews

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Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
Jan 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
this was both cool and disappointing. The author is science editor who doesn't have any tattoos, and the book is filled with submissions from individuals, not from talented artists showing off their best science work. This leads to many odd and interesting ideas, and many tattoos you've never seen before or would imagine anyone would get, and you also get some really crappy art. Very few seem to be from an accomplished artist. Many of the individuals are graduate students or science scholars get ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Wow, this is truly one of the nerdiest books I've ever read. It is also extremely beautiful. it feels solid and important in your hands. The binding is beautiful, the photographs are of variable quality but the printing is top-notch. Most of the submissions are from students pursing or recently acquiring advanced science degrees, and their enthusiasm really shines through. Even if you're not a science nerd, you can appreciate the passion that exists at the intersection of permanent body modifica ...more
Well, that was slightly disappointing.

Great concept- tattoos of the geeks and nerdy. Some brilliant, others terrible. All interesting and of great meaning to the individual none the less.

Great back stories, descriptions and personal meaning. If rather short.


A big chunk of the photography was awful. I feel this could have been outstanding if a professional photographer had been involved.
Emma Sea
Unexpected and great: that there's a short rundown on the scientific theory/species/concept/equation illustrated in each tattoo. These were well-written and interesting, and did an excellent job of communicating the personal meaning behind each piece.

Unexpected and terrible: such bad tattoos! Because each tattoo is identified with a particular person I don't want to post images from the book, because I don't want to make people feel bad about their art. But honestly, if you're getting a tattoo,
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Not my form of expression, but the combination of hard science and formidable art is arresting. The book, itself, is of sufficient quality to give the reader an excellent view of the body art. And, the text is very helpful with many of the more arcane representations.
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Aside from a very small number of typos, reading about the math, physics, and other related meanings behind these tattoos was enough to remind me I want another one. It was also a quick lesson in science, math, and history as well. A fabulous collection of fine-looking tattoos!
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is such an awesome book for mixing the art of tattoo with the geeky glee of science.

Similar in concept to this collection of literary tattoos but completely different in execution, this is more than just a collection of pictures of tattoos with a scientific bent---it also includes accessible explanations of the various equations, concepts or animals depicted, along with a little (or a lot) about the person the tattoo belongs to and why it is meaningful to them. (The 'Entropy' entry is espec
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What's the first thing you ask someone when you see their tattoo? If you don't have any tattoos it's probably, "did it hurt?" The follow is often something like, "Does it mean something? " or "Why'd you get that? "

Carl Zimmer addresses that second question for hundreds of science themed tattoos in this book, which is fascinating and inspirational to someone like me with an interest in both tattoos and science.

The book itself is beautiful so kudos to the art director who said people will pay for
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found out about this book, wanted it, contacted the publisher and got a free copy to review! Woohoo! This is the first time I've been the initiator in getting a review copy of a book, and I was pretty proud of myself.

And I loved it! I never would have guessed that a tattoo book would be such an enjoyable way to learn about science. Carl Zimmer explains concepts simply and clearly.

Blue bookcase review here:
Raphael Rosen
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing

I loved this book! I have no interest in getting a tattoo, but I love the idea of getting an image of a trilobite, or an equation, or Darwin's finches permanently marked on one's skin. Some of the tattoos are technically amazing: one person had a tattoo of Francisco Goya's etching, _The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters._ It looked amazing, and is one of the coolest tattoos I have ever seen. Kudos to all involved!
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are a lot of smart people with some real cool tattoos. Written by two of may favorite science writers-- Mary Roach (introduction) and Carl Zimmer. It offers a microreview of the life sciences. I am really impressed with the amount of reflection that many of the people in the book placed when designing their tattoos.
A collection of science-inspired tattoos, with short essays explaining the scientific principle behind it and, in some cases, the personal aspect as to why people chose these tattoos. It was an inspiring read and I loved reading about the passion people had for their studies. Really, this is the sort of book that makes me want to go to grad school.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book! I love Zimmer's other books, but this is something special. Photos of scientific tattoos are accompanied by the tattoo-ee's statement about the personal meaning of the tattoo, followed by a cogent explanation of the science underlying the tattoo by Zimmer. I have to buy a copy of this. Highly recommended for geeks of all stripes.
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. While the quality of the tattoos themselves wasn't always extraordinary, the stories and little anecdotes made the book interesting and educational. I learned a decent amount about math and physics. The forward from Mary Roach was delightful.
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Good book. Well written. But they could have been more selective with the tattoos. A lot of them are really bad. The ideas are interesting, but the photos where often pretty disappointing.
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Valerie by: New Scientist
Some amazing tats here. A beautiful book. The personal stories moved me. These people celebrating important milestones in their careers with depictions of the things that motivated them.
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
that was so much fun!
Adam J
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
the plant tattoos - great ideals in this book
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Amazingly nerdy tattoos with great stories behind each one. Loved this book.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
this was an extremely fun read just like I expected. I am fascinated by tattoos and the stories behind them.

I personally don't have any tattoos, nor do I have any plans for any in the future but I still really enjoy the thought of someone loving something so much that they would have it permanently drawn onto their body.

the science aspect to this book was really interesting because I am not a scientist or mathematician and some of these concepts were pretty foreign to me until the description
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pleasantly surprised at the representation of people featured in the book (i.e. it's not just white dudes). The photos themselves are of course intriguing, but I also thought the fact that the author featured little snippets of what the people thought of their tattoos / explanation of why they got it, along with a condensed summary of the science the tattoo represented, is very well done. The organization was a little confusing at first, because at first there was mathematics and then chemistry ...more
Kristine Gibbs
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The book has an interesting premise, and I do like learning more about tattoo culture (having quite a few myself). That being said, I found the writing style rather dry and long-winded. Winding explanations of the science behind the symbols, but not enough focus on the stories of those who chose the tattoos themselves. Based on the summary on the back, I was expecting the opposite when I sat down to read it.
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Humans are adorable creatures that get pictures on their bodies for equally adorable reasons, and this book reminds me of how dorky and nerdy people are.

*One small note: the book contained a number of spelling & grammatical errors (at one point, nitrogen was misspelled), which was surprising considering the otherwise great quality of the book.
Edward Taylor
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I am unsure what I expected but this was not it. It’s a great view into what drives people to get tattoos and what is behind the reasons they get what they get but there was no real “science” behind the process, the history, or the psychological motivation outside of “I like frogs...”
Ashley Adams
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, art
While not quite the coffee table book I anticipated (I didn't enjoy the photo-quality), I found myself continually engaged by the blurbs accompanying the photographs. Zimmer did a wonderful job capturing the beauty in scientific concepts and forms which inspires people to lead lives of inquiry.
Artsy Robot
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed getting to see the creativity of creating science concepts into tattoos. It was really cool to read the stories of the scientists that got them. Though it doesn't hurt to understand the concepts mentioned in this book, the author does try to explain most of them.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I love the books and articles written by Carl Zimmer. This book does not resemble those works. The photo's are often of poor quality. Bad lightning and often blurry. This book feels like a printed version of an uninspired hobby blog.
Waste of my money.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
In someways this book is a Compact survey of science and science history. I thought it succeeded very well in this aspect. I really enjoyed reading the backstory to why people got these tattoos. Where this book falls down is in it’s printing of the images. The images are fuzzy.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Mer by: NPR interview?
Shelves: art, non-fiction, science
A nice mix of body art, information on different scientific topics, and more importantly, what the tattoos are chosen to commemorate or remind the wearers of.
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
More than a coffee table book, as there are not-quite-brief enough explanations of the science behind each image. I kept getting sucked into reading instead of skimming as I'd intended, but didn't wind up actually learning anything.

Most are just images - I guess I was hoping for some creative pieces that actually used the body's shape & function to enhance the artistic value, instead of just treating the skin like plain old canvas. A snake around an arm, that was about the scope of the creat
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Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times and the author of 13 books about science. His latest book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh, will be published in May 2018. Zimmer is a frequent guest on Radiolab and has written hundreds of articles for magazines such as National Geographic, The Atlantic, and Wired. He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named ...more
“Two hallmarks of Homo Sapiens are decoration and self-identification.” 7 likes
“The extra clutter adds no important insight; instead, it offers more clutter in which erros can lurk.” 5 likes
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